Baxter continues to excel

The Bulls’ track and field teams hosted the South Florida Collegiate on Saturday. The meet featured six teams from around Florida, including Miami, FAMU, FIU and North Florida.

The highlight of the meet was Jimmy Baxter’s performance in the high jump. As the No. 1 high jumper in the NCAA with a successful jump of 7-feet, 4-inches last week, Baxter looked to improve on that mark, attempting 7-feet, 5-inches.

Baxter easily cleared his initial heights and drew applause of the home crowd after clearing 7-feet, 2-inches. Baxter then asked to raise the bar to 7-feet, 5-inches.

With the attention of the entire stadium, he barely missed clearing the bar on his first attempt. Baxter’s second and third jump also fell short of clearing the mark.

“My first attempt was good, I rushed the second one and the third one I was supposed to make,” said Baxter. “The coaches told me that my jump at 7-feet, 2-inches would have cleared 7-feet, 5-inches.”

Baxter had the support of the entire crowd through every attempt. The grandstands erupted with cheers and applause every time he went through his pre-jump ritual.

“I had the support of the football team and Coach Greenberg as they came out to see me jump,” said Baxter.His current mark is good for sixth in the world. Clearing 7-feet, 5-inches would move him up to third.

“He’s going to make that. He’s going to go 7-feet, 6-inches this year. I am pretty confident of that,” said coach Greg Thiel.

Freshman Robert Fennel set the school record in the shot put. His throw of 53-feet, 11-inches breaks the old record by more than two feet. The previous record of 51-feet, 10-inches was set by Rory March last year.

The meet gave the teams a rare opportunity to compete at home in front of fans, family and friends.

“It’s awesome to be at home. My parents didn’t have to drive a long way to attend my meet,” said sophomore Alexis McGaffagan.The meet ran smoothly and saw no delays in the event scheduling. The meet promptly started with the field events at noon and ended around 5 p.m.

“It was on time. I didn’t hear of any complaints. A lot of coaches came up afterwards to thank us and said they enjoyed themselves,” said Thiel.

It took the cooperation of many people to administrate a smooth running track meet.

“Everyone did a great job. We had 15 to 20 volunteers, high school coaches from around the area, parents and friends,” said Thiel. “You can’t have a meet with out them.” The coaching staff, along with many USF athletes, spent the entire day setting up and breaking down each event. Many started preparations at 8 a.m.

“The meet went off really well, considering only three weeks of planning,” said graduate assistant Mark Koebernik.

Along with Baxter and Fennel, the rest of the Bulls also had outstanding performances. In a limited field, the Bulls took nine first-place finishes and 12 second-place finishes.

First-place finishes on the women’s team included Alexis McGaffagan in the long jump, Dayanna Octavien in the discus and hammer throw, Erin Cecil in the javelin and Chandra Brewer in the shot put. Cori Kill in the 1,500 meters, Austrea Wilkins in the 100-meter hurdles, Karoline Hagen in the 400 meters, Stacey Havaich in the 800 meters, Symone Whitaker in the 400-meter hurdles and the women’s 4×400 relay team finished second. Steve Lytle placed first in the men’s pole vault. Russ Gerbers finished second in the mixed 3,200 meters and third in the 1,500 meters. Andrew Smith finished third in the 800 meters.

A few of the USF athletes did not compete due to nagging injuries. Bente General did not compete in the 4×400 relay due to a sore calf.

Due to the heat, the meet did not have long races. This allowed distance runners to have a week off in preparation for next week’s Penn Relays.

James Tai covers outdoor track and field and can be reached at